What Do We Mean by Responsibility?
None of us is born acting responsibly. A responsible character is formed over time. It is made up of our outlook and daily habits associated with feelings, thoughts, and actions. Responsible people act the way they should whether or not anyone is watching. They do so because they understand that it's right and because they have the courage and self-control to act decently, even when tempted to do otherwise.
We want our children to appreciate the importance of being responsible. We also want them to develop the habits and strength to act this way in their everyday lives. Learning to be responsible includes learning to
1. Respect and Compassion for Others
"Daddy, why was Grandma crying?"
"She is very sad. One of her closest friends just died. Come and sit with me. Do you remember how you felt when your gerbil, Whiskers, died? "
"I felt sad and lonely."
"I'm sure Grandma feels that way, too. Maybe you can think of a way to help her."
"I could give her a hug..."
"That's a great idea! I'm really glad you thought of it."
To understand the importance of being truthful to others, our children need to learn that living together depends on trust. Without honesty, trusting each other becomes impossible.
Courage does not mean never being afraid. It can involve trying to overcome our fears, such as a fear of the dark. But our children also need to learn that sometimes it is all right to be afraid.
"Daddy, a man showed us money by the school playground today."
"What did you do? "
"We ran for the teacher."
"Why did you do that? "
"We were scared. You and Mommy and our teacher Mrs. Jones said never take anything from grownups we don't know. Run away. Go and tell somebody we know. "
"Good for you. It was right to be scared. Lots of people are nice, but some are very mean. They can hurt you. The mean ones sometimes try to fool people by pretending to be nice. Now, tell me, what did the man look like?"
4. Self respect
While we help children have high standards for themselves, we also need to let them know that failure is no embarrassment when we have done our best. For example, losing a game when we have played our best, and our opponents have simply played better, is no disgrace.
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